Start location: Lannemezan
Finish location: Col du Tourmalet (Bagnères-de-Bigorre)
Stage type: Mountain
Start time: 16:15 CEST
Finish time (approx): 19:06 CEST
The Pyrenees have become synonymous with the Tour de France, hosting some of the most exhilarating stages on these epic mountain passes. Even those who are not regular Tour viewers are likely to have come across images of riders conquering the mountains, with throngs of fans lining the winding roads, waving flags, and passionately cheering them on. Two climbs that have gained legendary status in the Tour are the Col d'Aspin and the Col du Tourmalet.
The inclusion of the Apsin and Tourmalet in the Tour de France route dates back to 1910 when the race's founder, Henri Desgrange, envisioned taking the race to the lofty heights of the mountains. The first rider to conquer the summit of these mountains was Octave Lapize, who, in a challenging feat, had to dismount and push his single-speed bike to the top. As he reached the summit, he famously exclaimed, "Vous êtes des assassins!"
Stage seven profile sourced via ASO
In today's world, cyclists are fortunate to enjoy smooth roads, high-tech bikes, precise nutrition, and shorter stages compared to the gruelling 300km+ stages that Lapize and his rivals endured. While the Col d'Aspin and the Col du Tourmalet have been featured in the men's Tour over 70 times, this year marks the first appearance in the Tour de France Femmes. Positioned as the penultimate stage of the eight-day Grand Tour, these climbs are poised to be the decisive factor in determining who will don the prestigious yellow jersey at the end.
The peloton will set off from Lannemezan and encounter a relatively easy start to the day. It is only after the one and only sprint for those looking to win the points classification that the climbing commences, beginning with the Col d'Aspin. Approaching the climb from Arreau, riders will tackle its 12km length, ascending to an elevation of 1,490 metres above sea level, with an average gradient of 6.5%.
Following a 12km descent, the imposing Tourmalet emerges into view from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan. The peak of this climb serves as the only summit finish of this year's race and represents the "roof of the race" – the highest point of the Grand Tour, sitting at an impressive elevation of 2,110m. Spanning 17.1 kilometres with an average gradient of 7.5%, this is a long, challenging ascent, and will be the final opportunity for riders seeking to secure the yellow jersey. The Tourmalet has historically disrupted GC standings, and we anticipate the same level of intensity and excitement within the women's peloton.
Stage seven of the Tour de France Femmes is undoubtedly the hardest of the lot, and even though its distance is just shy of 90km it will be a very select number of riders that will contest the win on the final climb.
Breakaways have been the theme of this Tour, but there seems almost no chance of a break (unless it contains GC favourites) staying away considering the short distance and the elevation. The GC contenders will no doubt battle it out on the slopes of Tourmalet, meaning defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) and Demi Vollering (SD Worx) are the outstanding favourites.
We've yet to really gauge where their form is on the climbs considering the race so far has featured short, punchy ascents rather than any long endurance efforts. Historically, world champion Van Vleuten would be the strongest on this kind of ascent, proving that last year after beating Vollering to the overall title in the Tour de France Femmes' inaugural edition. But Vollering got the better of her Dutch compatriot earlier this year on Lagos de Covadonga in the Vuelta a España Feminina, so it could be an intensely even battle between the pair.
Beyond the two favourites, Ashleigh Moolman (AG Insurance - Soudal Quick-Step) is an exceptional climber who can challenge them – she beat them both on the long, high altitude climb of Thyon 2000 at the Tour de Romandie last year.
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez), Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ), Mavi García (Liv Racing TeqFind), Juliette Labous (DSM-Firmenich) are all outside contenders for the stage win.
Considering her exceptional form throughout 2023, we think Demi Vollering will just shade the victory over Van Vleuten on the summit of the Tourmalet.